CHOICE OF CUSTOMER RESEARCH METHODS
While there are many ways to perform customer research, most businesses use one or more of five basic methods i.e. Surveys, Focus groups, Personal interviews, Observation, and Field trials. It depends upon type of data required/needed, how much money you’re willing to spend and many other factors that will determine the techniques chosen by the business.
- Surveys: Surveys are useful for gathering the great deal of specific information. Surveys can contain open-ended questions or closed-ended. User Opinion Survey are found inside retail outlets, on the company website and sometimes mailed out as questionnaires to customers on the company mailing list. This method allows customers to anonymously submit their opinions to the company in writing. Often there will be specific questions regarding satisfaction of products and customer service. These surveys are then gathered and analysed by the marketing department and changes are made based on the responses of consumers.
Surveys come in several different forms.
- In-person survey
- Phone or Telephone-surveys
- Mail surveys
- Online surveys
In-person surveys: In-person surveys are one-on-one interviews typically conducted in high-traffic locations such as shopping malls. They allow you to present people with samples of products, packaging, or advertising and gather immediate feedback. In-person surveys can generate response rates of more than 90 percent, but they are costly.
Telephone Surveys: Telephone surveys are less expensive than in-person surveys, but costlier than mail. However, due to consumer resistance to relentless telemarketing, convincing people to participate in phone surveys has grown increasingly difficult. Telephone surveys generally yield response rates of 50 to 60 percent.
Mail surveys: Mail surveys are a relatively inexpensive way to reach a broad audience. They’re much cheaper than in-person and phone surveys, but they only generate response rates of 3 percent to 15 percent. Despite the low return, mail surveys remain a cost-effective choice for small businesses.
Online surveys: Online surveys usually generate unpredictable response rates and unreliable data, because you have no control over the pool of respondents. But an online survey is a simple, inexpensive way to collect anecdotal evidence and gather customer opinions and preferences.
Focus Groups: Focus Groups are useful to launch a new product or modify an existing one. This group usually involves having some 8-12 people come together in a room to discuss their consumption preferences and experiences. Focus groups are the ultimate in consumer research. A focus group gives companies an in-depth detailed view’/ into consumers’ minds and how they view and interact with the product.
A focus group consists of a daylong (or even longer) meeting of demographically appropriate individuals, usually around 10 in total. A facilitator will talk with consumers, have them interact with be product, ask questions and get feedback regarding the product. The whole focus group is usually observed and recorded by company executives who view the proceedings behind a two-way mirror. Companies typically hold focus groups when researching a new product.
Personal interviews: It involves in-depth questioning of an individual about his or her interest in or experiences with a product. This method of research is costly and can be extremely vulnerable to interviewer bias. This approach has the benefit that it minimizes the interference with the respondent’s own ideas and thoughts. He or she is not influenced by a new question but will; instead, go more in depth on what he or she was saying.
Observations: Observation of consumers is often a powerful tool. Looking at how consumers select products, how they make decisions and what they look for. For example, some Indian manufacturers were concerned about low sales of their products in Japan. Observing Japanese consumers, it was found that many of them scrutinized packages looking for a name of a major manufacturer i.e. brand name. Observation may help us determine how much time consumers spend comparing prices, or whether nutritional labels are being consulted. The video clip as a demonstrated the application of observation research to the retail by understanding the phenomena or the tendency.
Field trials: Placing a new product in selected stores to test customer response under real-life selling conditions can help you make product modifications, adjust prices, or improve packaging. Small business owners should try to establish rapport with local store owners and Web sites that can help them test their products.
The Internet now reaches the great majority of households and it provides new opportunity and has increased in use. One potential benefit of online surveys is the use Of “conditional branching.”
In conventional paper and pencil surveys, the person has to skip some questions which are not related to him/her but in case of online survey, system skips directly to the appropriate question. There are certain drawbacks to online surveys. Some consumers like household cannot access the internet due to lack of knowledge, hesitation etc.
- Online search data and page visit logs: Online search data and page visit logs provide valuable ground for analysis• It is possible to see how frequently various terms are used by those who use a firm’s web site search feature or to see the route taken by most consumers to get to the page with the information they ultimately want. If consumers use a certain term frequently that is not used by the firm in its product descriptions, the need to include this term in online content can be seen in search logs.
- Scanner data: Many consumers are members of supermarket “clubs.” In return for signing up for a card and presenting this when making purchases. consumers are often eligible for considerable discounts on selected products. Scanner data is, at the present time, only available for certain grocery item product categories—e.g., food items, beverages, cleaning items, laundry detergent, paper towels, and toilet paper.
It is not available for most non-grocery product items. Scanner data analysis is most useful for frequently purchased items (e.g., drinks, food items, snacks, and toilet paper) since a series of purchases in the same product category yield more information with greater precision than would a record of one purchase at one point in time. Even if scanner data were available for electronic products such as printers, computers, and MP3 players, for example, these products would be purchased quite infrequently.
Consumer’s shopping record: The consumer’s shopping record is usually combined with demographic information (e.g., income, educational level of adults in the household, occupations of adults, ages of children, and whether the family owns and rents and the family’s television watching habits. Electronic equipment run by firms such as A. C. Nielsen will actually recognize the face of each family member when he or she sits down to watch.
Split Cable: A “split cable” technology allows the researchers to randomly select half the panel members in a given community to receive one advertising treatment and the other half another. Interestingly, it has been found that consumers tend to be more influenced by commercials that they “zap” through while channel surfing even if they only see part of the commercial. This most likely results from the reality that one must pay greater attention while channel surfing than when watching a commercial in order to determine which program is worth watching.
Physiological measures: Physiological measures are occasionally used to examine consumer response. For example, advertisers may want to measure a consumer’s level of arousal during various parts of an advertisement. This can be used to assess possible discomfort on the negative side and level of attention on the positive side. Mind-reading would clearly not be ethical and is, at the present time, not possible in any event. However, it is possible to measure brain waves by attaching electrodes.
Call Centers: Call Centers are another less obvious method for customer research. Call centers are the source for all things related to the company. A customer may call to find out information, report a product problem or get tech support. Almost all calls from call centers are recorded. The calls are sorted and categorized by type and this gives companies a good idea of what customers are saying. For example if the call center is being bombarded with calls regarding how to use a new product then the company knows that the instructions for the new product are inadequate. Companies monitor call center activity and relay information back to the appropriate divisions in their firm.
Third party research: There are many third-party research companies that provide very valuable consumer research data to companies. These companies usually compile very large industry-based surveys that would be too time-consuming and costly for a single company to do. The market research company can afford to do this because it sells the final report to all the companies in that industry. These reports are usually very in-depth and involve a wide range of demographic information and customer feedback. The report is also not biased because it does not favor a particular company or brand.
Search Engines: Search Engines is one online research method is the study of search engine keywords. Keyword research enables businesses to discern which terms web users enter most to search and find their products. Researching keywords can also assist in predicting changes in product demand and marketing conditions. Google Adwords and BingAds are the two largest search engine marketing (SEM) tools that can help make predictions about which keywords will be most useful to a business.
SEMs promote website visibility by using both search engine optimization (SEO) and advertising. Search engine optimization (SEC), the marketing process of getting Internet traffic from a search engine listing, based on constantly changing search algorithms. SEOs assess words, coded titles, links between sites, anchor texts, and the reliability of the site to filter results.
Google Trends: Google Trends is another useful behavior analysis search tool. It illustrates web interest and search terms over a period of time. Similar to SEO, it helps researchers determine what keywords are used most often. Google Trends is insight-based research that can assist businesses mako marketing decisions regarding advertising messages, regional interests, seasonality, brand association and market entry.
Social Media: Social Media Given that 80 percent of Internet users access social media, social media research is among one of the most popular modern consumer research methods. Netnography, for example, is a consumer-centric, qualitative, online resource that uses social media monitoring (SMM) techniques comprised Of ethnography, text mining, social media monitoring, empirical research, and content analysis that provides information on consumer’s Internet behaviors.
SMM Tools: SMM tools search e-mail, search engines, social media sites, professional networks• and blogs like Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr to mine consumer data and gather information. Netnography synthesizes conversations on these resources to gain insight on market opportunities and to create product buzz by word of mouth and story-telling.
One major advantage of these modern resources is that because much of information sharing technology happens in intimate social circles’ businesses engaging consumers in the digital sphere can develop relationships with their consumers. Social media relationship management (SMRM) tools can be used to create complete consumer profiles.